The main improvement we’re seeing under Setién is the build-up phase. This was the identifying trait of his previous teams, and it is being repeated at Barcelona. For Quique, the formations and structure will change depending on the rival. Sometimes we may see a 4–3–3, a back 3, Busquets dropping between the centre-backs…What is non-negotiable for the Cantabrian boss, though, is the aim to generate superiorities from the very first line.
Starting from Ter Stegen, Setién said about him that “it seems like he doesn’t have any blood”, talking about his calmness with the ball at his feet. When his teammates are all marked, it means that he is the only free man. Therefore, he will patiently wait until a striker comes to press him, meaning that a new player will be off mark – for example, Piqué. To find him, one of the interiors will offer himself to triangulate and find the third man – Piqué.
If then the team isn’t in an advantageous situation to advance, the same mechanism will be activated, but through the other side – Lenglet. If the circulation is fast enough, Clément will be left with space to progress. The opposing block retreats and Barcelona can generate more advantages by making movements into the spaces between the rival’s lines.
Basically, the pattern when the opponent presses high is:
1. The keeper attracts pressure
2. A player is off mark
3. Goalkeeper → central midfielder → centre-back
4. Progression into the following line
If, instead, the rivals use a medium or low block and prevent the progression of Barcelona, the Blaugranas will again invite pressure and use a similar process to the previous one. People tend to fear backpasses, but these can be very useful to find new solutions that did not seem obvious before.
All in all, the work from Quique Setién with only a few weeks and training sessions has been brutal when it comes to the build-up phase. I have zero doubts that, against top high-pressing sides like Liverpool, we will not crumble under pressure as we did before. Maybe we’ll make some mistakes, and there’s still much to improve. But it is clear that, despite the little time, Setién’s signature moves are already being implemented.